Members say: Great staging, Great singing, Enchanting, Entertaining, Delightful

About the show

The joyous Tony-nominated musical returns to Broadway with its story of a fearless young dreamer in post-storm Haiti.

... Read more

Set in a fantastical world bursting with Caribbean rhythms and dance 'Once On This Island' tells the extraordinary story of a villager named Ti Moune. After a massive storm rages through her village, a ray of hope appears through a young man from the wealthy side of the island. An unexpected romance blossoms. But when their different cultures threaten to keep them apart, Ti Moune—guided by the island gods—sets out on a journey to stay beside the man who has captured her heart. Directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden ('Spring Awakening' revival) and written by the Tony Award-winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty ('Anastasia,' 'Ragtime.')

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Broadway News

"An absolutely incandescent revival...The delights of this fable-like show, with a rapturous, rhythmically bewitching score by Flaherty and Ahrens, will hold you entranced...The complicated tale, which relies perhaps a little too much on narration, nevertheless comes across with piercing emotional clarity in the buoyant staging...No matter where you look, the theater seems busy with active life...Kilgore glows with big-hearted life...The supporting cast is virtually flawless." Full Review


"An uplifting revival...The ungainly in-the-round stage of Broadway’s Circle in the Square is put to imaginative use...Ahrens and Flaherty, a well-matched team, produced more than twenty songs for this musical. Besides being perfectly lovely, they also advance the narrative in ways rarely seen...A sequence of dramatic songs – from 'Waiting for Life to Begin' through the heartbreaking 'Forever Yours' – take Ti Moune on the journey of love. Full Review


“Exhilarating...Simply done with this exceptional ensemble cast, and especially with Camille A. Brown's striking choreography, carefully crafted for authenticity, this would be a sparkling jewel of a show. But add to that Michael Arden's reminders of humankind's increasing vulnerability as the planet unnaturally evolves, and 'Once On This Island' carries an even greater emotional force." Full Review

Time Out New York

"After seeing the imaginative and dynamic 'Once on This Island,' you may feel that once is not enough...'Once on This Island' is patchy in parts. Its best-known songs bring down the house, but there are also languors. And the central story of female sacrifice and degradation is treated as more inspirational than it actually is. But it is hard to imagine a better account of the show than the one that Arden and his team have assembled. It sings, dances, and conjures up a storm." Full Review

The New York Times

"A ravishing revival...A pastiche Caribbean score whose words are restrained and delicately rhymed but whose music is relentlessly grabby and emotional...Arden has aced every theatrical trick he’s torn from the ancient handbook, freshening the show, and the tricks, in the process...The hallmark ingenuity, warmth, and intensity bordering on excess that characterize Arden’s style is recapitulated everywhere within the production, from the frankly stupendous singing to the electric choreography." Full Review


"Miraculous things happen when you corral a team of talented artists and let them loose in a sandbox...Music that digs its heels into the earth one minute and floats into the heavens the next. Paired with Arden's ensemble-oriented direction, Brown's unchained choreography, and a near-perfect cast, the production walks the delicate line between the minuscule and the infinite...Every element not only tells a story but carries a palpable reverence for the divine art of storytelling." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Arden has listened, intently, to the words of Ahrens' book and lyrics, and has a found a solid rationale for reinventing 'Once on This Island'...For all its delights, this production never loses sight of the fact that Ti Moune is headed toward tragedy...The moral of this fable: The world only changes through love, expressed unreservedly and without fear of the consequences. Thanks to Arden and his talented company, this moral has never seemed more urgent.” Full Review

Theater Life

"A life-affirming revival...Against this tragic backdrop, the magnificent company tells book-writer-lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty’s joyous story of survival and spirituality...In its original Broadway staging, 'Island' was a charming bauble, now it’s a stirring, enveloping experience...Newcomer Hailey Kilgore is a spectacular surprise, displaying a rich, emotive voice, expressive dancing (Brown’s choreography is stunning), and an impressive acting range." Full Review

New York Theater

"With a terrifically appealing cast, as well as a rhythmic score, infectious choreography, vibrantly colorful design, and clever stagecraft, the musical itself could well serve to soothe audience members reeling from the year’s many disasters...One might question some aspects of this 1990 musical...But any such quibbles are swept away like the detritus in a hurricane thanks to the delights large and small in the production." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“Sparklingly enjoyable revival…A kinetic,…90-minute production with a ‘devised-theatre’ feeling…Regardless of the questions its plot raises, the show bursts with ebullient songs, musically underscored dialogue, colorful choreography, shadow pantomime, gorgeous costumes, and awesome lighting, not to mention exceptional performances…The gifted, beautiful Lea Salonga…, especially in her white gown and exquisite headdress, looks the virtual embodiment of love, reminding us of why she's a star.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"A joyful hymn to community and resilience...Together with his resourceful design team and cast of expressive, vocally gifted performers, Arden has approached the piece with the nurturing hand it requires—striking a balance between child-like story theater and folkloric ritual...Demonstrates an impressive leap in maturity and creative vision for Arden...While the early scenes flirt with a whimsical quality that might easily turn cloying, the dramatic integrity of the piece prevails." Full Review

AM New York

"Emphasizing the musical’s themes of natural disaster and economic inequality, director Michael Arden brings an unexpected dose of gritty realism, while also honoring its gorgeous score of dynamic group numbers and tender ballads. Vocal fireworks and full-bodied dance choreography imbue spirituality and joyful theatricality...Kilgore and the superb supporting cast essentially grab the audience and proceed to take it on an exciting, emotional, and extraordinary journey." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Good as it was then, it’s exponentially better now that director Michael Arden has revived the tuner...When Ahrens and Flaherty tell the story this time, their vivaciously enchanting songs become that much more valuable. As the numbers spring into the air they reinforce a troubled people’s indomitable spirit. Also, Camille A. Brown’s spirited choreography becomes that much more uplifting...Transcendent and shockingly relevant-to-today." Full Review

Chicago Tribune

"A justly loved one-act musical...No radical revisionism...But as compared with previously major stagings of the work, Arden’s in-the-round production notably steps back from the cruise-ship version of the Caribbean popular in the early years of stagings of this show...The sculpted live-ness of the conceit makes for a very au courant and youth-friendly staging…This is all the way it should be with 'Island,' a 90-minute pleasure all about reviving a story still very much of use." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Broadway’s bewitching revival of Ahrens and Flaherty’s 'Once on This Island' is filled with beauty...Arden’s smart and timely concept underscores the elemental and emotional tempests at work in the musical fable that celebrates love, resilience, and the spirit of hope...Over a fast-moving 90 minutes, the score mixes captivating calypso beats and warm ballads, all brought to life vividly by the fine-tuned cast. Exuberant dancing adds bursts of excitement." Full Review


"A smashing revival...Arden’s exuberant staging conjures a spell that is devastatingly timely yet affectingly timeless...Much of the show’s charm derives from its seamless interweaving of narrative, song, and dance...A confident, swinging cast is blessed with showcase numbers...Kilgore, like this revival itself, is no imitation but a triumph in her own right, striking exactly the right balance between innocence and spirituality, youth and experience. She’s just wonderful." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Lush and musically intoxicating…Once I found myself comfortably there, I could breathe in the humid warm air of the Caribbean, and even though those first moments are less than engaging, the first number…grabs hold of our hearts and souls quickly and we are transported...As it proceeds, the story of Ti Moune and her saved young man deepen beyond just young love, expanding into mythology and the meaning of forgiveness and love that lasts beyond a lifetime.” Full Review


“Director Michael Arden's inventive and joyous revival of the 1990 Ahrens and Flaherty musical, ‘Once on This Island,’ reinvents the show as if it were brand new; it is as if you have never seen it before. While the original production seemed inauthentic and labored, the new one now at the Circle in the Square, which can hardly be called a revival as it is such a reinvention, sets a sand-covered island before you in its theater in the round, and the doomed but mesmerizing love story.” Full Review

Front Row Center

“Lost none of its luster over the years, and in the production the beauty of this musical has been given its full due and then some...The ensemble contribute in myriad ways to the performance, handing off the narrative to each other in a verbal dance...The cast infuses every moment with spirit, emotion, and music. Everywhere you look something catches your eye...Every single element blends perfectly to bring this already beautiful musical to dazzling, joyous life.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"The ensemble is strong. The dance numbers by Camille A. Brown were the highlights for me. It is hard to believe that there are only four musicians because the sound is not skimpy at all...Michael Arden’s direction is assured. While I will never count it among my favorite musicals, I do have a new respect for it as a well-crafted work that creates a vivid world and offers some creative storytelling along with some appealing music and spirited dancing." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Arden's done it again, this time gloriously integrating the art of theater magic with the even older art of storytelling, resulting in the nigh unto perfect revival...Flaherty's score offers a mix of styles. The songs for Ti Moune call on Hailey Kilgore to embrace us with a full-voiced, emotional style that suits her character's certitude...Truly, any quibbles with this impressive and thoroughly engaging production are minimal." Full Review

The Wrap

"Dandridge and Kilgore belong more to the caterwauling school of Broadway braying that current audiences often lavish with ovations. Playing the demon of death, Dandridge is expected to make some loud, questionable sounds. Kilgore’s abrasive tone is much less acceptable, as are her facial grimaces...'Once on This Island' captures Ahrens and Flaherty at their most intimate and therefore their most effective." Full Review

Theater News Online

“Deceptively simple – yet, dare I say, powerful...At times, the show’s physical attributes come close to overwhelming the delicate story, but ultimately, they enhance and burnish it...The show really rises on the casting of central role of Ti Moune, and Kilgore delivers all the goods...I suspect once will not be enough for many viewers of ‘Once on This Island’. Nor should it be if you want to experience every facet of the show’s innate richness and Arden’s often-remarkable production.” Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"This production is on first impression, immediately involving...If this is myth, it is weak stuff, its power and mystery insisted upon but not felt. If it means to offer a moral lesson, it is even weaker...Why then do we tell this story? Maybe because it makes us feel morally sensitive without the labor of being so...But Ti Moune is strong only because she doesn’t mind being a victim. Little about this love is admirable, and its self-sacrifice is unconvincing." Full Review

Broadway & Me

The idea of a poor dark-skinned woman sacrificing herself so that a wealthy light-skinned guy can live annoyed me so much that I sat there during the entire 90-minute running time asking myself the words of a famous lyric from the show 'why do we tell this story?'...Things only got worse for me when the production indulged itself in another of my bugaboos: the rousing gospel aria delivered by a large black woman...I can't complain about the performances, which were all very good." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Enchanting, Must see, Great singing, Great staging

See it if Love this show! Michael Arden is a genius. Music is tops! Staging is brilliant. Lea Salonga is a dream. Hailey Kilgore a find. Go see it!

Don't see it if You have to see it! It's so good!

Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if A joyous musical imaginatively staged and beautifully sung and danced. The cast looked like they were having a great time performing.

Don't see it if You don't like musicals staged in the round.

Also My one complaint was the sound system, which made it difficult to hear... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Enchanting, Must see, Relevant, Great staging

See it if you want to see a beautifully told story about storytelling or want to see some masterful performances by the entire cast.

Don't see it if you have preconceived notions that the story is dated or racist that you are unwilling to let go of.

Also I thought this was a beautiful production and everyone in the cast was... Read more Read less

Great acting, Overrated, Dated, Great staging, Great design work

See it if you're interested in the staging/design of it (and the novelty of involving a live goat) and in the attempt to salvage an outdated script.

Don't see it if you are skeptical about whether this script is worth reviving and want to see something that will have a long term impact on you.

Clever, Delightful, Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you're a fan of the score and want to see a new staging

Don't see it if you don't like goats.

Ambitious, Enchanting, Great acting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You’d enjoy a beautifully staged immersive theater experience telling a Caribbean fable.

Don't see it if You do not enjoy constant stage activity and/or actors running in and out of the audience, or if you expect Lea Salonga in a major role.

Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You want to see some of Michael Arden’s finest work as a director

Don't see it if You’re not interested in musicals dealing with race and class structures

Clever, Enchanting, Quirky, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You’d like a lighthearted, enchanting show with a big heart and a beautiful score sung by an outstanding cast.

Don't see it if You’re not really into family-friendly, tall-tale shows.

Enchanting, Moving, Great singing, Great staging, Unique

See it if You like non-traditional, immersive musicals, Caribbean music, & innovative, detailed sets. It extends all the way to the 1st row of seats

Don't see it if You don't like fables, stories of myth & adventure, a straightforward happy ending, or sand. See it anyway. The singing is heavenly.

Also I really loved this. It was made all the more special with a Show-Scor... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Enchanting, Exquisite, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you want to be absorbed in an incredibly moving production with a beautiful score. The staging/lighting is brilliant and the cast is superb.

Don't see it if you don't want to experience emotion? Just go see it!

Delightful, Enchanting, Emotional, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you already love the material; you love great performances set in unique staging; you love beautiful music and a heart-breaking story

Don't see it if you don't like theatre in the round; you don't like fairy tales with magical characters; your kids are too young (it might be too scary!)

Enchanting, Refreshing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you like seeing shows in an intimate setting, you like unconventional love stories. Fantastic singing and performances.

Don't see it if you want a complex musical with a lot of explanation. This show is more for the emotions.

Talented cast, Weak score, Weak book, Gorgeous staging

See it if you're looking for an immersive experience. They truly have transformed the Circle in the Square Theater to look and feel like an island

Don't see it if you're looking for a great show. This show is a spectacle, it's an experience, but, at the end of the day, its book and score are sub par

Masterful, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if Caribbean-set musicals w/ a knock-out debut lead performance (Hailey Kilgore) interest you or you love Michael Arden's stellar direction

Don't see it if you don't already know the musical and expect a top-notch score/book from Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens (this isn't their best work)

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Must see

See it if You are looking for a story similar the original mermaid, a fun and engaging musical with a 360 experience.

Don't see it if Don't like a poor woman getting the short end of the stick and sacrificing herself for love.

Also I wasn't really into seeing this and someone brought me to it and I wa... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You want a 90 minute musicals about love. The cast is very talented and do justice to this favorite.

Don't see it if You want something light or fluffy. While this is a story about love, it also deals with heartbreak.

Great acting, Must see, Refreshing, Great singing

See it if You like really original productions with great atmosphere, a great cast and superb setting. This is rally a don't miss.

Don't see it if Formulaic, proscenium staged musicals with 'stars' who go through the motions.

Also This show really 'breaks the mold' in staging and presentation and cre... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Epic, Great staging

See it if you like the beach & fables. Unique staging with the cast dancing in the SAND.

Don't see it if you need a happy ending.

Enchanting, Slow, Entertaining

See it if You have a tie to the original production and you know and love the songs. Or if you want to see very non traditional scenic design

Don't see it if you're looking for a new and enchanting show - this just isn't for everyone.

Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to enjoy a great cast, great music, and a great story.

Don't see it if You like shows more like a standard Broadway show

Beautiful, Absorbing, Resonant, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you love strong ensembles, you want a different story with the production value of a Broadway show, you want to feel all the emotions

Don't see it if you want 'classic' Broadway with zero audience interaction

Enchanting, Exquisite, Riveting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You love ambitious and original productions of enchanting stories. Beautiful score and great performances

Don't see it if You don’t like love stories, you prefer darker plots.

Catchy caribbean musical fable

See it if you like catchy Caribbean beats that gloss over a sad story.

Don't see it if you strongly don't want to see depiction of various gods worshipped by the islanders in this musical.

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You want to see a very creative revival of an interesting, magical,modern fairy tale musical. Very well performed by a talented ensemble.

Don't see it if You want a big spashly musical where you don’t have to follow the lyrics and visuals to understand the plot.

Great singing, Great ensemble work, Fairy tale, Folktale, In the round

See it if You love an Ahrens/Flaherty musical in the round. Well staged, great singers (Alex Newell knocks it out of the park), great last 40 minutes.

Don't see it if You do not like fairy tales. Found the first half tough to follow/get into.

Cast & Creatives (32)